Baltimore area restaurants have been adapting to the “new normal” during this pandemic with an array of innovative changes and new menu options.

I’m all about supporting local, independent restaurants whose owners are our neighbors and friends. Check out all of the social media platforms and web sites for restaurants’ daily updates regarding hours, menus, reservations and curbside/delivery options.

Max’s Taphouse in Fells Point has significantly extended its outdoor seating (20-plus tables) with specially built custom cubbies for each table so there’s a barrier in between parties. They’ve also added umbrellas, new lighting for evening dining, a new window for counter service outside and implemented online ordering.

And they’ve created beer slushies! Spiked slushies, too! Draft beer is available to go, and they’ve produced very cool Twistee cans in (19.2 or 32 ounces) for people to take home — similar to a crowler, but with a twist-off cap with Max’s YOURhouse custom stickers.

Lots of menu choices — cheesesteaks, wings, sliders, tacos and tater tots! Kudos to owners Ron and Gail Furman for their conscientious and creative approach to dining in the age of COVID-19. shop.maxs.com

Meanwhile, Tropicool Italian Ice on Falls Road in Mount Washington offers house-made Italian ice, gelatis, milkshakes, smoothies, fresh-squeezed lemonade and limeade, root beer floats and soft-serve ice cream with jimmies. (Note: If you’re not from Baltimore, jimmies is another word for sprinkles.)

And they have Frosty Paws ice cream for the doggies. Stop by and pick up some tasty treats, and go to pup-friendly Lake Roland right next door. facebook.com/Tropicool-Italian-Ice-137587352946493

Jilly’s Bar & Grill in Pikesville has expanded its outdoor, picnic table seating into the cordoned off-street. Enjoy specials like the fried grouper sandwiches and salmon burgers al fresco. facebook.com/jillyspikesville1012/

Le Bistro du Village (formerly Crepe du Jour) in Mount Washington offers authentic French cuisine. Now, they’ve expanded their outdoor seating into the (closed-off) street, and offer curbside pick up and delivery.

Two words: chocolate crepes!! lebistroduvillage.com

If you haven’t had a chance, check out Whitehall Market, located in the historic Whitehall Mill at 3300 Clipper Mill Road in Hampden. (Just past Birroteca.) The 18,000-square-foot market showcases unique and creative shops including Ceremony Coffee Roasters, Firefly Farms Market (cheesemakers), Gundalow Gourmet, Wight Tea Company and Crust by Mack.

Chef Amanda Mack of Crust by Mack has perfected her craft, learning from her grandmother, who was a chef, and her mom, who was a caterer. Born and raised in Baltimore, Amanda, her grandmother, mom, husband and kids all work together to turn out seriously tasty treats.

Chef Amanda Mack (photo by Daniel McGarrity). Bmore Crust (Provided photo).
Chef Amanda Mack (photo by Daniel McGarrity). Bmore Crust (Provided photo).

The most popular items include Baltimore crust-lump crab dip handpie with buttermilk crust topped with jumbo lump crab meat. And yes, it’s a hand-sized pie; strawberry tart with vanilla bean custard and vanilla bean caviar; and Gramma’s carrot cake. crustbymack.com, whitehallmillbaltimore.com

Have a (Sno)Ball!

If it’s summertime in Baltimore, it’s snoball time! (FYI, SNOball is the correct Bawlmer spelling.)

And if you are a hometown hon, you’ll want to search out an original egg custard snoball!

Here are a few top picks to check out!

  • Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Firehouse Snowballs, 12020 Greenspring Ave. in Owings Mills (FYI, the snowball stand serves as a fundraiser for the firehouse) facebook.com/chestnutridgefire
  • Quality Snowballs, 1014 W. 36th Street In Hampden (FYI, Quality Snowballs is actually in a converted, hand-painted shipping container) instagram.com/qualitysnowballs

Ah, Fond Farewells

With the hospitality industry being hit hard by the pandemic, many of our local, independent restaurants — including City Cafe, Ryleigh’s Oyster House in Federal Hill, and Pen & Quill — have closed their doors for good.

Now, after 23 years, Chef Brian Boston’s historic Milton Inn in Sparks has closed as well. I spent many birthdays celebrating at the Milton Inn and will miss doing so in the future.

Thank you for the memories, Chef Boston. It’s truly the end of an era.

Randi Rom is president of RJ Rom & Associates. She is a freelance columnist and writer who represents some of the region’s top restaurants and food-related events. Contact her at randirom@comcast.net.